TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – Buccaneers safety Antoine Winfield Jr. leaped onto the scene last season as a rookie, making an immediate impact at the professional level. He was responsible for several splash plays throughout the season, including getting an interception on the biggest stage in the Super Bowl.
Winfield finished his rookie season (including the playoffs) with 112 total tackles, three sacks, three forced fumbles, one fumble recovery, and two interceptions. Like many players making the transition from college to the pros, the cerebral part of the game is where he’s taken the most strides since this time last year.
“I feel like my most improvement is just mentally,” Winfield said about his growth since entering the league. “That first year, they throw so many things out at you and just learning the scheme and things like that. But after being in the system for a year, I just feel like mentally my game is just sharper and a little bit better than last year so that’s where I feel the best at.”
Bucs defensive coordinator Todd Bowles echoed that evaluation about his second-year safety.
“Just the mental growth of the game,” Bowles said of Winfield’s biggest area of improvement. “We both know he left some plays out there on the field last year. He’s doing his job and playing his position, but he can expand on that, and he will. He has already some in camp. Just knowing the overall defense and knowing where he can cheat and take advantage of his plays and not just use his athletic ability.”
Winfield is in the mix with a talented group of players in the secondary who are all capable of making plays and being starters. When Bowles was asked if starters have locked in their roles, he said nothing is set in stone.
“When I was a player, the door was always open for anybody to take a spot,” Bowles said. “You have to make me notice you, and as coaches, you have to show yourself when we put you out there to make plays in certain situations. So you’re the starter until somebody plays better than you and replaces you. If nobody plays better than you, you’re probably going to be the starter.”